Auburn hires Ole Miss assistant as offensive coordinator; more Alabama players consider transfer options

AP file photo by Butch Dill / Auburn football coach Hugh Freeze, pictured, who recently wrapped up his first season with the Tigers at 6-7 after the team struggled to produce enough yards and points, has hired Derrick Nix from Ole Miss as offensive coordinator and running backs coach.
AP file photo by Butch Dill / Auburn football coach Hugh Freeze, pictured, who recently wrapped up his first season with the Tigers at 6-7 after the team struggled to produce enough yards and points, has hired Derrick Nix from Ole Miss as offensive coordinator and running backs coach.

Longtime Ole Miss assistant Derrick Nix is headed to another Southeastern Conference football program, joining Auburn as offensive coordinator and running backs coach.

Auburn announced the hiring of Nix, who was the Rebels' associate head coach, along with Kent Austin as quarterbacks coach on Wednesday. Tigers coach Hugh Freeze fired coordinator Philip Montgomery, a former Tulsa head coach, two weeks ago after their first season at Auburn produced a 6-7 record with an underwhelming offense.

"I'm really excited to reunite with Derrick here at Auburn," Freeze, whose tenure as Ole Miss head coach from 2012-16 included Nix on his staff, said in a release. "He is an outstanding recruiter and coach who has nearly two decades of experience in the Southeastern Conference. Derrick knows the level of excellence required to be successful in this league and I know he's looking forward to the opportunity to help develop a winning program at Auburn."

Austin was Freeze's offensive coordinator at Liberty from 2019-22 and at Ole Miss from 2008-09. He has also had stints as a head coach at Cornell and in the Canadian Football League, where he led the Hamilton Tiger Cats to back-to-back Grey Cup finals in 2013 and 2014. He was already at Auburn, spending last year as a special assistant to the head coach with quality control duties.

Ole Miss essentially announced Nix's new job on Wednesday via a social media post thanking Nix for 16 years of service, with a statement from coach Lane Kiffin.

"Acknowledging the opportunity to become a first-time playcaller with full-time playcalling duties as Offensive Coordinator at Auburn University," said the post in part, which was signed by Kiffin.

Nix's contract at Ole Miss stipulated he would owe a buyout if he left for a job other than a head coaching or coordinator position with primary play-calling duties.

The wording could potentially matter because Freeze said in an interview with ESPN recently that he would take over calling plays for Auburn's offense after firing Montgomery. Freeze called his own plays at previous stops as a head coach, including Ole Miss, Arkansas State and Liberty.

Nix took over as receivers coach for Ole Miss in 2020 after previously coaching running backs. The former Southern Miss running back coached receivers including Elijah Moore, Dontario Drummond and Tre Harris.

He was promoted to associate head coach before the 2023 season.

"I'm very excited for this opportunity at Auburn and to get back on staff with Coach Freeze," Nix said in Auburn's release. "Having worked with him before, I have a strong understanding of what he wants offensively as well as culture wise.

"Fundamentally, we want to be a fast, physical and fearless offensive scoring unit."

The Tigers ranked 121st of 130 Football Bowl Subdivision offenses in passing for the 2023 season, averaging just 162.2 yards per game in that category, and they averaged 351 total yards and 26 points a game. Auburn totaled just 300 yards in a 31-13 loss to Maryland at the Music City Bowl on Dec. 30.

"I have full trust in Kent and Derrick as coaches and men to help develop our offensive unit to the standard we expect," Freeze said.

  photo  AP photo by Vasha Hunt / Alabama safety Caleb Downs lines up for a play against Auburn on Nov. 25.
 
 

More losses for Tide?

Alabama left tackle Kadyn Proctor plans to enter the NCAA transfer portal after starting every game as a freshman for the Crimson Tide this pastseason, and All-America safety Caleb Downs might join him.

Proctor announced his intentions Wednesday via social media, while Downs' plans to enter the portal were announced in the same fashion but by Deuce Recruiting, where his father Gary, a former NFL running back, is national recruiting director.

If Downs and Proctor decide not to return to the Tide, it would be the biggest roster losses yet for new coach Kalen DeBoer.

According to 247Sports.com's composite rankings, they would be the top two players to have entered the portal, and receiver Isaiah Bond, who has already moved on to Texas, is No. 4.

Downs and Proctor were two of Alabama's top recruits in the 2023 class, with Downs sixth and Proctor ninth in the 247Sports composite rankings.

Downs is the first Alabama freshman dating to at least 1970 to lead the team in tackles. He earned All-America second team and SEC newcomer of the year honors from AP after making 107 tackles.

He was the SEC's fourth-leading tackler, and he also forced a fumble, recovered a fumble and intercepted two passes, along with scoring a touchdown on one of his four punt returns.

A number of players have already transferred or entered the portal since the retirement of Nick Saban last Wednesday as head coach, and former Alabama secondary coach Travaris Robinson left late last week to become Georgia's co-defensive coordinator and safeties coach.

In addition to Bond joining the Longhorns, starting center Seth McLaughlin headed to Ohio State and several players landed at Florida State, including No. 2 rusher Roydell Williams, wide receiver Malik Benson and offensive lineman Terrence Ferguson.

Cornerbacks Dezz Ricks and Antonio Kite have also entered the portal, among others, with rival Auburn announcing Wednesday that Kite is joining the Tigers. Kite saw limited action in two seasons in Tuscaloosa and was redshirted in 2022.

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